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State pays N.J. State Police trooper $325,000 to settle whistleblower lawsuit over gun tracking

 

Christopher Baxter/The Star-Ledger May 26, 2013 12:42:00 AM EDT
state police.jpgView full sizeThe state Attorney General's Office has paid a total $675,000 since 2011 to settle claims by two N.J. State Police troopers that they were retaliated against after raising concerns about the division's internal tracking of its thousands of weapons.Star-Ledger file photo

Between the two cases, the Attorney General’s Office has paid out $675,000 to settle claims related to the State Police’s weapons tracking since 2011.

Betten, who retired in 2008 after 25 years on the force, said he gave a subordinate, Trooper Neil Talijan, a negative evaluation after determining “the accounting of firearms was severely mismanaged … whereby many firearms were unaccounted for in the system.”

An attorney for Betten, Robert Anderson, said his client filed the suit “with the best interest of the citizens in mind.”

“There are at least six or more physical inventories of our weapons each year, and they are reviewed by different department levels,” Jones said. “That would include inventories of guns issued to troopers and non-issued guns.”

He added, “I’m confident we have an excellent system for tracking weapons.”

The Attorney General’s Office declined to comment on the case.

In addition to the Betten case, the office in 2011 agreed to pay Sgt. 1st Class James Meyers $350,000 to settle claims he was threatened with transfer and discipline, relieved of supervisory duties and told to “back off” after raising concerns about weapons.

Meyers, an 18-year veteran, said in a lawsuit filed in 2007 in state Superior Court that he reported a “significant lack of documentation and other irregularities associated with the overall organization and tracking of weapons” in 2006.

In return for the payments in both cases, the troopers agreed to drop their claims and the state admitted no liability.

The whistle-blower lawsuits were among more than a dozen filed by troopers against the State Police since 2005. A Star-Ledger review of the suits last year found allegations of infighting and retaliation persist despite a history of claims by troopers that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

The report illustrated the personal, sometimes-nasty internal disputes between troopers, and the hardships that whistle-blowers claim after breaching the so-called “blue wall of silence” in a culture where those who keep their mouths shut climb the ranks.

The Attorney General’s Office has disputed claims that retaliation within the ranks of the State Police is prevalent and said such lawsuits are filed in any workplace.

RELATED COVERAGE

• Troopers' lawsuits against N.J. State Police cite transfers, lost promotions

• Two N.J. State Police troopers reassigned during missing gun investigation

 

 

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